07/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When It Comes To Medical Pot, Rats Are Smarter Than Our Politicians

You can learn a lot from a rat -- especially if the subject is medical cannabis.

According to a just-published study from the University of Milan -- you didn't actually think medicinal marijuana research took place in this country, did you? -- the administration of whole-plant cannabis extracts provides superior pain relief compared to the administration of the plant's isolated components (such as THC) in an animal model of neuropathic pain.

"[T]he use of a standardized extract of Cannabis sativa ... evoked a total relief of thermal hyperalgesia, in an experimental model of neuropathic pain, ... ameliorating the effect of single cannabinoids," investigators reported. "Collectively, these findings strongly support the idea that the combination of cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds, as present in [plant-derived] extracts, provide significant [therapeutic] advantages ... compared with pure cannabinoids alone."

Ironically, US lawmakers and bureaucrats have long argued just the opposite -- maintaining that the therapeutic use of the plant should remain illegal, but that its "active ingredients ... could be isolated and developed into a variety of pharmaceuticals, such as Marinol."

So if rats can deduce that whole cannabis works better as a medicine than a single synthesized molecule, what's stopping our politicians from reaching this same conclusion?